How Should We Think About the Future?

crystal ballChances are, you’re underestimating the amount of progress we’re going to make in technology, medicine and a host of other things. Why? Because your brain, and mine, and everyone else’s, thinks linearly, rather than exponentially. We are living in an age of exponential change in things like computing power and speed, decoding and finding medical uses for the human genome, adoption of the Internet mobile technology and various social media sites, self-driving cars and many other things that were not even on your radar ten years ago.

According to an article at Singularity Hub, our brains are wired to predict the future based on the past. If we’re walking down a road, and taking steps a meter in length, we assume that it will take 30 steps to travel 30 meters. This progress is relatively easy to predict, and this linear thinking would have worked pretty well for evaluating the growth of our economy and its various technologies until fairly recently.

But now think about exponential growth, where each step we take is twice as long as the previous one.  Our first step is a meter, the next one is two, and by step number 30, you will have traveled a billion meters—a distance equal to 26 trips around the Equator.  This kind of rapid change is very difficult for our minds to wrap themselves around, but it accurately describes the evolution of many of the technologies and medical services that we enjoy today.

One of the hardest things to adjust to, the article tells us, is how things seem to appear out of nowhere. Think: mobile device apps, or the iPhone itself, or the exponential growth of information available on the Internet.  That’s because exponential growth seems to happen overnight.  When you double the length of each of those steps, you’re traveling 125 million miles at step 28, which is as much as all of the previous steps combined.  Your next step is 250 million miles, again as much as all previous steps, and then you step 500 million miles, and you have traveled a full billion.  If this were technology, those last two steps may see the advent of something completely unexpected and far beyond whatever came before.

Individuals and companies can’t predict exactly what will happen.  But we can prepare for a future that moves so quickly that it seems out of control, and know that it’s actually the result of steady progress where a lot of previous steps built on each other invisibly but exponentially.  We can allow ourselves to be pleasantly surprised by what the world brings us in the next ten or 20 years in the form of new therapies, new conveniences and access to more and better information—because changes are coming faster than our humble minds can predict, whether we decide to adjust to them or not.


About Objectively Speaking

Tom Batterman, founder of Vigil Trust & Financial Advocacy and Financial Fiduciaries, LLC is in the business of representing the best financial interests of his clients. Having provided objective, fee-only financial management services for over two decades, he specializes in managing the investment and related financial affairs of individuals and mutual insurance companies who do not have the time, interest or expertise to manage such matters on their own. As an objective, unbiased professional who takes on a fiduciary responsibility to his clients, he guides clients to the financial decisions they would make themselves if they had years of training and experience and the time and expertise to fully research and understand all of their options. Founded in 2010 as an outgrowth of Vigil Trust & Financial Advocacy, Financial Fiduciaries, LLC is a financial management solution for individuals and mutual insurance companies who recognize they do not have the time, interest or expertise to properly attend to their financial matters on their own. While there are many financial “advisors”, most of them have investment products to sell and the “advice” they provide is geared toward getting their clients to engage in a purchase. As one of the rare subset of advisors known as “fiduciary advisors”, Financial Fiduciaries does not sell any investment product so its guidance is not compromised by conflicts of interest which plague ordinary advisors. Prior to his employment in the financial industry in financial advocacy and trust positions, he worked at a private law practice in the Wausau area in the areas of estate planning, tax, retirement planning, corporate organizations and real estate. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the UW-Madison Law School and has during his career held Series 7, 24 and 65 securities licenses. A longtime resident of the Wausau, Wisconsin Area, Tom is active in the community. He enjoys golf, curling, skiing, fishing, traveling and spending time with his family.
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